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382Philosophy and Literature Georg Lukács: Life, Thought, and Politics, by Arpad Kadarkay ; 538 pp. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell , 1991, $29.95. The monumental work of the Hungarian philosopher György Lukács has finally received a worthy complement in Arpad Kadarkay's illuminating biography ofLukács's life, thought, and politics. Based on twenty years ofintensive research, Kadarkay's grande oeuvre benefited from repeated personal contacts with Lukács, ready access to his archives in Budapest, and the generous support of a whole array of distinguished scholars and institutions all over the world. It reveals the contents of a huge mass of previously unknown documents, especially from Lukács's family life and student years, his activities during the 1919 proletarian republic in Hungary, his exiles in Vienna and Russia where the Stalinist purge claimed nearly eighty percent of his fellow Hungarians, and finally the 1956 Hungarian uprising which virtually brought Lukács's political activities to a definitive halt. The study illuminates the personal drama of the man, the Jew, the intellectual, who throughout his life tried to adhere to his own obsessive moral imperative: "I go to prove my soul" (p. 171). It is also a sincere and courageous portrait of a troubled and not always admirable human being whose embittered life had an undeniable impact on "what purports to be a coolly objective work" (p. 35). In fact, this book provides lots of ammunition to ignite all kinds of critical fires. Lukács emerges from it as a highly troubled human being who loves neither mother nor father, is sickly, arrogant, and egocentric, "without goodness " (p. 151), cannot love, but also feels homeless, alienated, lonely, and suffers from temptations of suicide. His brilliant friends Béla Balázs, Karl Mannheim, Arnold Hauser, Ernst Bloch, Béla Bartók, and Zoltán Kodály, with whom he creates the esoteric Sunday Circle, "looked to Lukács as the new Socrates" (p. 177) and referred to him as the "aesthetic pope" and "saint Lukács" (p. 178). They shared the young Lukács's elitist intellectual tastes but also his "demons" (p. 124): loneliness and alienation. Kadarkay speaks in great detail of Lukács's Jewish origins, the "Lukács Circle's Jewish face" and Lukács's "homeless Jewish mind" (180), his messianism and genuine interest in Hasidism encouraged by Buber (p. 1 16). Lukács is also the "Robespierre of Red Budapest" (p. 214) who during his rule ofterror ordered rather arbitrarily the execution ofeight soldiers and who stated that "terror and bloodshed are a moral duty" (p. 222), and that the revolution ultimately "failed because it shed too little bourgeois blood" (p. 246). Lukács's "dialectics of evil" (p. 314), "his adulterous soul" (p. 328), are alluded to in references to his recantations and his "idolatry of Stalin" which, according to Isaac Deutscher, was "genuine" (p. 312) but, according to Kadarkay 's painstaking research, never appeared in Lukács's unpublished works (p. 321). Philosophically, Lukács's portrait appears from this biographical puzzle as a Reviews383 Talmudian, idealist, neo-Kantian, Machiavellian, and Nietzschean metaphysician "who could both arbitrarily leap from doubt into belief and find relief from the torment of doubt by affirming the absurdity of the human condition" (p. 103). His early neo-Kantian essays in The Soul and Form (191 1) are seen as his "unwitting intellectual autobiography" unmatched by his later Marxist writings (p. 91), with the exception of History and Chss Consciousness (1923) and The Young Hegel, written during Lukács's Russian exile, which receive due recognition . "Reading Marx offers little insight into Lukács" (p. 340), observes Kadarkay , only to state repeatedly elsewhere that Lukács nevertheless "surpasses all Marxist thinkers" (p. 27). There are many more merits than flaws in this magisterial work. The skillful and honest handling of an enormous amount of information make the biographer 's occasional peremptory statements, his unconditional admiration of Lukács, and even his negative treatment of women less significant. The desire to link Lukács's work to his turbulent existence and troubled personality may have diminished some of the aura of objectivity surrounding his theories. At the same...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 382-383
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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